E3 2016 – Agents of Mayhem Hands-On Preview – Ultimate Power Fantasy (PS4)
Ever since Saints Row IV, I have been dying to know what’s next for Volition. Gat Out of Hell was an alright follow up, but it really felt like a Hell-themed repeat of Saints Row IV, which itself felt like a super powered version of Saints Row: The Third. Managing to break the mold that they’ve created while also retaining the signature style that Volition is known for, Deep Silver announced Agents of Mayhem, a third person open world action game set in the Saints Row universe. After getting hands on the game myself, Volition proved to me that they can effectively provide the same goofy, pop-cultural charm while offering enough of a good change to the gameplay to feel like a fresh approach.
MAYHEM is an organization of anti-heroes who do things outside the law in order to defeat LEGION, the game’s antagonists. Known for creating amoral lead characters, Voltion has filled that role with 12 lead characters that may be fighting on the side of good, but have enough quirks that it’s hard to fully call them Agents of Mayhem’s heroes. Each agent has a big personality and their own unique identity, which carries over into their weapons, abilities, and gameplay style. During my hands-on session, I was able to try out four of the agents in a mission against one of LEGION’s lieutenants and get a good feel for the variety that each one provides.
Synergies of Agents
At the start of the mission I was able to select three agents to take with me, out of the assault rifle toting Hollywood, Fortune and her dual pistols, Hardtack with his shotgun, and the bow and arrow wielding Rama (through extra time at the end of the demo, I tested out the fourth one I missed the first time through). Movement of each feels distinctly different, with Hardtack playing the heavy tank type character, and Rama’s playstyle favors a much more acrobatic approach. Unlike most other games, in Agents of Mayhem I could swap instantly between my three chosen characters. This meant that if I wanted to go from being a tank, to having agility, to being a general assault class, I could do it on the fly with the directional pad.
The selection of characters is important to the approach of each mission, and the cooperative synergy of being able to swap between characters means that you can take on the swarms of LEGION in a manner fit for your choosing. This is Volition though, and in the last game they created, you had super powers and the ability to run up the sides of buildings and fly. They aren’t about to drop that special spark, so all characters can move effectively. Even the tank class is decently agile enough to leap and bound around the area with ease, lending itself to the ultimate power fantasy that Volition seeks to create. Each character also has their own unique mayhem ability, my favorite being Hollywood’s Michael Bay inspired explosion fest.
Pop Culture Hilarity
The mission I played was full of the pop culture referential humor that Volition brought in spades to the Saints Row series. The world’s most intelligent AI is Aisha, a pop sensation that is both a reference to Hatsune Miku, and Volition’s own Saint’s Row series. MAYHEM is intent on making sure this high level AI doesn’t wind up in the hands of LEGION, but Aisha has other plans. She’s fallen in love with a high ranking lieutenant named Steeltoe, and of course this mecha soldier and AI pop star decide to quickly marry each other, combine their powers, and provide one hell of a boss fight.
As much as I thought I wanted Saints Row 5, playing Agents of Mayhem made me realize that even doing an offshoot from the franchise gave Volition the much needed freedom to break from some of the gameplay conventions they had created with the Saints Row series and explore other avenues. Giving players the ability to essentially be three over the top amoral anti-heroes, Agents of Mayhem continues Volition’s trend of providing the ultimate power fantasy, and still cranking the dial to 11 and beyond with a game that looks like a strange yet wonderful mix between Borderlands, anime, and Saints Row.